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Lady Flames Continue Homestand with Dukes

April 1, 2008
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Leah Cossentino and the Lady Flames return to the Liberty Softball Field tomorrow when they host in-state foe James Madison.

Leah Cossentino and the Lady Flames return to the Liberty Softball Field tomorrow when they host in-state foe James Madison.

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The Lady Flames will host their second-straight home doubleheader on Wednesday, when Liberty welcomes James Madison to the Liberty Softball Field. Opening toss from inside the pitcher's circle is slated for 2 p.m.

A well-rested Lady Flames squad (4-20-1) will welcome the chance to get back on the softball diamond, having played just one doubleheader over the last two weeks.

Following a stretch were Liberty played 23 games over 25 days, all of which were away from Lynchburg, the Lady Flames welcomed former Big South foe UNC Greensboro to Lynchburg for Liberty's first home games of the year.

A pair of sophomores paced Liberty during the game-one victory, giving the Lady Flames their third-straight home-opening victory and 12th under head coach Paul Wetmore's 15-year career.

J'nae Jefferson clocked a solo home run in the second for the game's lone run, sending a 2-2 pitch well over the fence in left. Dana Wheeler took control of the remainder of the 1-0 victory, scattering four hits and fanning four more during her second-straight shutout victory.

Liberty's bats came alive during the second contest, but came up just short, as UNC Greensboro halted a seventh-inning rally to hold on for a 4-3 victory.

Ashley Williams and Beth Bennett led Liberty's eight-hit attack, both going 2-for-4 from the dish. Williams and Keely McMillon hit their first home runs of the season, which was the 34th of Williams' career and the first round tripper of McMillon's collegiate days.

James Madison (16-16) comes into the non-conference twinbill winners of two out of three in its Colonial Athletic Association series with Georgia State. The Dukes held the Panthers' bats in check on Friday with a 4-0 victory, before splitting a doubleheader on Saturday (L/ 7-8 and W/ 14-0 in five innings).

The James Madison doubleheader marks the middle contests in a three-opponent homestand. Liberty will close out the set of home games this weekend when the Lady Flames welcome Birmingham-Southern to the Hill City to begin Big South Conference play.

Denoting the Dukes
James Madison opened the year by winning six out of its first eight contests; however a trek to the West Coast to participate in the San Diego Classic cooled off the Dukes. James Madison ran into No.7 UCLA and No. 25 Maryland twice during the event.

Since the lengthy trip, the Dukes have played .500 softball, which is where James Madison comes into the Wednesday doubleheader with a 16-16 mark.

In between CAA series against Hofstra and Georgia State, James Madison took a trip to Radford, Va., to square off against Liberty's arch rival Radford last Wednesday. The Dukes dropped both contests, 4-3 and 12-3, with the nightcap seeing the Highlanders pound out 11 hits and capitalize on four Duke errors for the five-inning victory.

The Dukes are led by junior Amber Kirby, as the third baseman is the lone James Madison player sporting a batting average above the .300 mark (.326). She has clocked five of the team's 16 home runs, helping her drive in a team-best 23 RBI.

Shannon Moxey ranks just behind Kirby offensively, batting .286 to go along with a team-high nine doubles and 14 runs scored. Courtney Simons and Kaitlyn Wernsing give the Dukes a pair of speedsters on the base paths, having swiped nine and eight bases, respectively.

Meredith Felts is head coach Katie Flynn's go-to pitcher, as the junior has taken the decision in the past four games. The righty is 7-7 on the year with a 1.05 ERA, having fanned 71 batters and walked 15 in 66.2 innings of work.

The Dukes have three hurlers on the roster, with senior Katie Cochran (5-5, 2.13 ERA) and junior Shannon Outman (4-3, 3.07 ERA) ranking behind Felts.

Series with the Dukes
Head coach Katie Flynn has been at the helm of the James Madison program since its inception in 2002. Liberty played the Dukes during their inaugural season and has posted a 5-6 mark against the in-state foe over the last six years.

Both teams have defended their home turf well during the series, as Liberty is 4-0 against James Madison at home and the Dukes are 5-1 against Liberty in Harrisonburg. The Lady Flames swept a pair of home doubleheaders in 2006 and 2003.

Last Time against James Madison
Liberty broke the string of home field dominance in the series with James Madison, winning the second game of a doubleheader last year in Harrisonburg, Va., on April 4. James Madison got a three-run homer to break a see-saw battle in the opener for a 6-4 victory, while J'nae Jefferson's two-run blast propelled Liberty to its first-ever road victory in the series, 5-3.

In the opener, Liberty was led offensively by Shannon McKain (2-for-4, 1 run, 1 RBI) and Ashley Williams (2-for-4, 1 RBI). Sarah Ellis suffered the loss, allowing four runs on seven hits over three innings of work. Dana Wheeler came in to relief Ellis and allowed two runs on four hits during one inning of work.

During the nightcap, Beth Bennett was 1-for-2 with a RBI and Courtney Johnson finished the game 2-for-3 with a RBI. Ellis came in to relieve starter Terra Lowe and picked up the win, finishing the last 3.2 innings by allowing no runs on two hits and fanning three.

Home Cooking
Liberty hit five home runs during its first 23 games of the year, but connected on three long balls during its home opening doubleheader against UNC Greensboro last week. Over the past three seasons, Liberty has hit a total of 182 home runs, with 47.2 percent (86) of those round trippers having left the park at the Liberty Softball Field.

Bennett Banging out the Hits
Beth Bennett was a combined 3-for-6 in last week's double dip against UNC Greensboro, extending her personal-best hitting streak to six games. Bennett, who's previous best was five-straight games set during her freshman year, leads the Lady Flames with a .329 batting average. The junior has hit safely in 15 out of 25 games this year (60.0 percent).

Sophomore Sensation
Dana Wheeler tossed her second-straight shutout victory when the second-year lefty scattered four hits during a 1-0 victory over UNC Greensboro last weekend. The Ohio native has not allowed a run in three-straight starts, having tossed 18 scoreless innings of softball inside the pitcher's circle for the Lady Flames.

The Hit Parade
For the fifth time in the last six games, the Lady Flames' bats came alive. Liberty pounded out eight hits during the second game of the doubleheader against UNC Greensboro last week. During the opener, the Spartans stymied Liberty's offense by holding the Lady Flames to four hits.
During the six-game stretch, Liberty has averaged 6.8 hits per game, raising the team's batting average over 20 percent points. Prior to the last six games, Liberty averaged 2.3 hits per contests over a 12-game run.

Fewer Free Passes
During Liberty's 4-3 loss, the Lady Flames allowed four walks to account for the second time in the last 12 games Liberty has walked three or more batters. Liberty has averaged 1.8 walks per game over the last dozen games, as compared to 4.8 walks per game over the first 13 games of the season.

On the Airwaves
Wednesday's doubleheader marks continuation of Lady Flames' softball on the radio airways. The Flames Sports Network will broadcast both contests against the Dukes, accounting for the second of seven twinbills the radio network will air during the course of the 2008 season.

The sports network, which can be heard on the radio dial at 90.9 FM or online at www.thelightonline.com, will also cover Liberty's competition at the Big South Softball Championship, May 8-10, in Rock Hill, S.C.

Remaining games on the 2008 Flames Sports Network Radio Softball Broadcast Schedule:
4/2 – vs. James Madison – 2 p.m.
4/4 – vs. Birmingham-Southern – 2 p.m.
4/9 – vs. Virginia – 2 p.m.
4/20 – vs. Radford – 2:30 p.m.
4/25 – vs. Winthrop – 2 p.m.
4/29 – vs. Gardner-Webb – 2 p.m.
5/8-10 – Big South Championship – Rock Hill, S.C.